Renault summoned by the FIA on race fixing charges
The FIA have summoned Renault to answer charges of manipulating the result of last year's Singapore Grand Prix in which their driver Fernando Alonso won. The hearing, an extraordinary meeting of the World Motorsport Council will be held on Monday 21st September in Paris.
Rumours had engulfed the Formula One paddock since Saturday when Brazilian Television channel Globo broke the story that an investigation was underway. The FIA are believed to have hired the Quest private investigation agency, and work has been ongoing for some weeks.
The incident in September of last year hinged around the then Renault driver, Nelson Piquet Jnr. crashing two laps after teammate Fernando Alonso had pitted. Nothing out of the ordinary you may think, however Alonso was on a very strange pit stop strategy, stopping on lap 12, despite qualifying a lowly 15th on the grid - such strategies are a huge risk even when a driver qualifies on pole and is able to build a lead in clean air.
The crash brought out the safety car which gifted Alonso track position after his rivals had all made their later pit stops. The Spaniard went on to win the race ahead of Nico Rosberg for Williams and Lewis Hamilton in his McLaren.
The race had significant consequence on the drivers world championship battle between Hamilton and Felipe Massa. Felipe had been leading the race up until the safety car period, and when the pit lane re-opened - it is closed when the safety car is out - he made his stop where his Ferrari pit crew made a huge mistake resulting in the Brazilian driving away with the fuel hose still attached.
Ferrari were using their traffic light pit release system - instead of the more usual lollypop man - which is usually automatic, however because the pit lane had been closed many cars had come in at the same time, the system was operated in manual mode - where a team member on the pit wall presses the button to indicate the driver to exit. You will remember the result - he was released too early and pulled away with the fuel hose still attached. He eventually finished the race in 13th position and out of the points. Lewis Hamilton meanwhile came third, and of course he won the championship battle by a single point at the final round on Brazil.
There are several strange coincidences involving the Renault team that weekend that have come under the spotlight in recent days. One report has suggested that they changed Nelson's setup between the final practice session and the start of qualifying despite the Brazilian being happy with his car, and setting good times.
American broadcaster SpeedTV also noted that Flavio Briatore blamed the safety car period on Rubens Barrichello's retirement - he did retire, however it was whilst the safety car a lap later than Piquet's crash.
And the video currently doing the rounds, that shows Piquet spinning his car on the parade lap, in a remarkably similar fashion to what happened 13 laps later.
Bernie Ecclestone went on the record on Monday saying that he feared that Renault may pull out of F1 as a result of the investigation, and negative headlines about the troubled French manufacturer. While long-time Formula One journalist Joe Saward thinks that ultimately the outcome will be positive. He argues that the FIA being seen to take action and dispel dishonesty will improve the image of the sport in the long term.
|2||N Rosberg||Williams||+2.9 secs|
|3||L Hamilton||McLaren||+5.9 secs|
|4||T Glock||Toyota||+8.1 secs|
|5||S Vettel||Toro Rosso||+10.2 secs|
|6||N Heidfeld||BMW Sauber||+11.1 secs|
|7||D Coulthard||Red Bull||+16.3 secs|
|8||K Nakajima||Williams||+18.4 secs|
|9||J Button||Honda||+19.8 secs|
|10||H Kovalainen||McLaren||+26.9 secs|
|11||R Kubica||BMW Sauber||+27.9 secs|
|12||S Bourdais||Toro Rosso||+29.4 secs|
|13||F Massa||Ferrari||+35.1 secs|
|14||G Fisichella||Force India||+43.5 secs|
|DNF||K Raikkonen||Ferrari||+4 Laps|
|DNF||J Trulli||Toyota||+11 Laps|
|DNF||A Sutil||Force India||+12 Laps|
|DNF||M Webber||Red Bull||+32 Laps|
|DNF||R Barrichello||Honda||+47 Laps|
|DNF||N Piquet Jnr||Renault||+48 Laps|